I Am Ready To Hike Mountains Again… Plus Some Weekend Snapshots

Another summer weekend with sun, fun and family has come and gone. With a bonus being I had a three day weekend which I wasted no time enjoying. First, let’s catch up a bit on last weeks big news.

Last week was a little nuts around here. I decided that after our family vacation to Minnesota’s North Shore and no real issues with the hiking/rock bouldering that we did during this vacation that maybe I was ready to go bigger once again. My husband knew I was watching flight prices the past year for a trip back south but then January happened and all was scrapped until I felt better again. Well, I believe that time has come and I am once again ready to hike some mountains. This time our destination is Arizona…..and I am over the moon excited to experience life elevated once again. Tickets are purchased, hotels are reserved, and permits have been applied for. Let the planning begin…..

That all happened Tuesday-Thursday….then Friday rolled around and one of my daycare dad’s surprised me by keeping his son with him for the day which meant I had the day off. BONUS!!!!! With no hesitation I made plans from sun up to sun down literally. My Friday started by getting my husband off to work bright and early as usual. Then I ate some breakfast and headed to the gym for a morning workout…..my absolute favorite time to work out.

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Then I called to see if any eye appointments were open yet that day. And another bonus….they had a 10:45 still open…..I took it. I really, really needed to get new prescription sunglasses.

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While waiting for my glasses to be made, I ran some errands and stopped at home to do some laundry. Then my husband returned home and both my boys headed back out for a night of fishing together. I had made plans to have dinner with a friend, do some shopping and walk a recreation trail.

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I finally returned home at 8:15p.m. to quickly make some dinner for my boys when they finally returned home and I went to bed.

Then Saturday rolled around and I was moving pretty slow. I was tired but ready nothing a cup of coffee wouldn’t fix. We had made plans to paddle Sawyer Harbor in Potawatomi State Park. This was our first time here and it was very relaxing. We arrived to find the parking lot was very large, your park pass includes your launch fee, restrooms are on site, fish cleaning house is also on site, and kayakers are very familiar with this area. Here are some pics from our day at Sawyer Harbor.

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It was a great day spent doing what we all love. The boys did some fishing, I paddled and tube floated for awhile, we shared a family picnic and later in the afternoon we even managed a hike at this same park.

More on that hike coming up……

 

 

Things That Drive Me Crazy

Do you ever have those moments when you can’t believe what you just heard or what you just saw? I have many times. And most of the time I keep my thoughts to myself. However, at other times I have had to just speak my mind and normally my husband is that lucky person that has to hear me rant about these things. Lucky guy:)

Well, not today. You all get to hear me rant a little.

Do you know what drives me CRAZYYYYYY:

While at a county park one day we saw a parent changing their child on top of a park picnic table. Are you kidding me???? Bend over, get on your hands and knees and do it on the grass. People come to parks to have picnics on these tables. Think about this please. Let me paint you a picture. Would you all eat lunch on a changing table in a public bathroom???? I did not think so.

Dog owners that use retractable leashes Actually the leash is not the problem, it’s the owner at the other end. Not every person you walk past on the street while walking your dog wants to be licked, jumped on, or wants to pet your dog. That little button on the end you hold is for you (the owner) to lock the leash in place and not let the dog approach people you pass by. If your dog is friendly and needs attention, ASK that person you pass if they would like to say hi and pet your dog before letting them approach that person.

American flags made in China No explanation needed

Politics We teach our children to play nice together and share. Maybe these adults should take up parenting before politics and learn some life lessons.

People that talk on cell phones while on cardio equipment at the gym. Most gyms arrange there cardio machines so they are right next to each other in a line. I am sorry but if whatever you need to be discussing is that darn important that it cannot wait until your 30 minutes is up, step off and go elsewhere to discuss the matter at hand.

Dog Strollers Unless your dog has a medical problem, I see this as a joke. Vets tell you to walk your dog for the purpose of exercise. That means your dog needs to be actually WALKING next to you.

Thank you for listening, I feel better.

Do you have anything you need to get off your chest?

 

Lesson Learned/A Guides Perspective

We hit the river for the first time this weekend without our son. To say it was a little strange to not pack up all his gear would be an understatement. The entire trip, from start to finish, I felt like someone was missing. Although, we ought to get used to this, he will not be paddling for quite some time. That being said, we still had a great time with a new couple and our newbie neighbor that has now officially graduated from a newbie to a full blown kayaker.

As I have said in the past, we rarely find friends to join us in our river adventures. However, this weekend with three kayaks empty instead of just two, we left it up to our neighbor to search out some friends she would like to have experience the adventure with us. Surprising, this was quite easy for her and the first couple she asked said yes. (We seriously need some friends like this) So, our neighbor, who has been down the river once with us in the past and once at a beach with some lessons on wet exits and rolling accompanied us along with her sister and brother in law. Our neighbor took our son’s kayak and the new couple used our recreational kayaks.

The day was hot, partly sunny and beautiful. A great day to see if the lessons on wet exiting at the beach were worth teaching. In our opinion, after you teach the basics like how to hold a paddle and paddle strokes the next lesson should be wet exiting your kayak. Even though they may not like the fact that this should be taught, they will be happy they know the skill eventually. Our neighbor was very happy to have learned this lesson after trying to surf one of the nicest rapids on the river this weekend. I will apologize because I have no pics of this part of our day but I had a little more important things to do. (Like retrieve gear after she flipped) If someone is going to flip surfing, we know from experience, this is the rapid it is going to happen on. She wanted to try and my husband was never very far from her in his kayak the entire time. I, however, exited my kayak, beached it on a rock and stood nearby in the water to assist because I knew how this would end. The newbies sat nearby in their kayaks watching. She was doing great until the wave caught her, turned her sideways and over she went….and exited just like she was taught. Success, she was up, my husband was out and ready to assist and I gathered the gear. Afterwards she admitted that she was so thankful to have been taught the lesson and even happier to have had the chance to get a true wet exit experience. We officially have graduated her from newbie to just an every day kayaker….Congrats!

As for our newbie couple, they did terrific. One flip in the last rapid of the river but everyone stayed calm. She also surprised us all by trying it again and the second time it went much more smoothly. Success was achieved by all this weekend and it was a great ending to our day on the river.

After that it was picnic time. I don’t think anyone was really ready to leave the river on this day because it was so beautiful but a nice spread of good food always helps.

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We really enjoy taking new people and showing them that even though what we do can be dangerous, it can also be fun and relaxing. With the proper safety precautions it is no more dangerous than riding a bike on a city street. It’s really what you make of the experience that makes it what it is. You can float along and portage everything if you wish or you can try new things and even get a little crazy like my husband and slide down a rock with a dramatic splash.

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It’s all up to you. All we ask is that you have fun and enjoy the moment.

This weekend I think we would all agree, we all enjoyed the moment:)

 

 

 

Willow Run Disc Golf Course on Lake Wazeecha

Have you ever tried disc golf? We started playing two years ago and have been to some really great courses and some really bad courses. However, this time we have found a favorite. It’s on Lake Wazeecha in Wisconsin Rapids, WI.

This course has many trees that really add to the fun of playing. Most of the course is shaded and runs along side the lake.

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The course also has many hills, some beautiful views of the lake, and even some pretty challenging baskets.

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You may want to place a person near the water baskets for a little added “lake insurance” in case of an over throw. We did… or you may be swimming for your disc.

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The one down side of this course is that it is not marked well. Finding your next tee box can be difficult.

Across the lake is also a very nice beach area and campground. So, if your looking for a place to spend a day or a weekend, there seems to be plenty of active things to do in a few mile radius of Lake Wazeecha.

We are looking forward to returning for another game of disc golf, a picnic, and some time on the lake with the stand up paddle board this summer.

 

 

 

My Countdown To Spring Begins…

Every year about this time I start counting down the days till Spring.

Easter is usually the goal for me. It is my favorite holiday! It has nothing to do with a family gathering, the food, the pastel colors in every store you shop or Easter egg hunts. It is simply because this is normally the first real outing we take as a family into the outdoors and share Easter our way. After being cooped up in the house for months with freezing temperatures outside and snow everywhere, I look forward to Easter more than anyone I know.

So what do I do until Easter….I wait patiently (well, sometimes not so patiently, but I try). After the Christmas and New Year holidays is when winter really sets in for me. Although, as a family, we have so much to look forward to come spring that I do really try and prepare. Spring is when the ice turns into water again, which means our rivers start running, trails start thawing out and my kayak and stand up paddle board hanging on the garage wall looks more and more appealing every day:) We have in the past been known to paddle next to ice chunks in the river. Although, I will admit, I am not a big fan of this. You want to know what cold is, try paddling in March.

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In preparation for all this, I really concentrate on my workouts. You cannot sit around all winter and expect to just jump back into whitewater kayaking,standup paddling or hiking long distances without some pain. Which is why I work hard all winter to stay conditioned to do what I wait to do all winter long. I find it so rewarding to hike up a cliff without even a thought of, “can I make it?” Or paddle our first river of the year and wonder, “will my arms hurt when we get to the take out point?” Typically, I worry more about whether or not I will do something stupid and flip over into the ice cold river…but we don’t need to discuss that.

Another way we prepare is by attending our favorite expo that is held every year in Madison, WI. Canoecopia  2014 is at the beginning of March. It is the one place where we can go as a family and actually fit in with the crowd and have a conversation with people that do what we do. Since we have started kayaking, we have seen more and more people with the colorful floating vessels atop there vehicles on the highway. Sadly, they are used mainly on lakes a time or two and then left to collect dust hanging in the rafters. And even sadder, very few are whitewater kayaks, which is what we enjoy. Who knows, maybe it’s just Wisconsin, but the lack of inactive people always seems to amaze me.

As far as our Easter outing goes, we typically will plan a hike, praying that most of the snow and ice have melted away. Believe it or not, a few years ago Easter was when I consumed my first freeze dried meal. We hiked up a cliff up north and prepared our Easter meal from atop looking over the horizon. One year we packed a picnic lunch, loaded our packs and headed to one of my favorite lookouts, Devil’s Lake.

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Another year we hiked Rib Mountain in Wausau.

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Another year we had the best Easter on the books so far. We snowshoed into a yurt on lake Superior for the Easter weekend. Now this was an adventure. We even had company join us one of the mornings. A whole pack of wolves were a little too near by for my liking.

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This year we have not decided quite yet where will celebrate, all I know is as long as it’s outside it will be a fabulous holiday.

I would like to just point out, we do invite our family to our Easter celebration every year but so far not a single one has decided to spend Easter with us. They just don’t know what they are missing….

So for the time being, I will continue to mark off every day until Spring arrives. No one will be waiting more for the days of ice cream cones,

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picnics

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or some fun filled days of paddling more than I will.

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Until then let the sun shine and the days get longer…

Devil’s Lake State Park/Our First Visit With Our Son

This summer we never found the time to make our yearly trip to our favorite hiking destination in Wisconsin, Devil’s Lake State Park. This did not make me very happy. I mentioned to my husband that I sure would like to try and make it there before winter. His favorite saying is, “Happy wife,happy life!” So, he agreed to set aside a weekend to hike this beautiful park and make his wife happy:)

While talking with our son, I mentioned we were planning this adventure and he said he would like to join us if we made the trip on a Saturday. We clearly thought this would be a great way to sneak in a visit and spend it hiking as a family like always. (Otherwise we would not be seeing him until Thanksgiving normally) So we worked out the best weekend and decided to leave extra early to travel a little further and pick him and his friend up from campus for the day.

We left home at 4:45 am and picked them up at 9am to head back to the park arriving about 11:00 am. Our goal was to make it to the top of the first cliff and have a picnic lunch together. Upon arrival it was gorgeous, not too hot  and very sunny.

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We stopped a few times to take pictures and let his friend take in the view.

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This park has my favorite terrain to hike, boulders everywhere. I have climbed this trail numerous times and it never gets old.

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Upon reaching the top we found a fairly flat boulder on the edge of the cliff, off the beaten path and enjoyed a nice spread of picnic foods and some catching up with the kids. It was so nice to sit and talk.

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After lunch we headed to Devils Door. This is a spectacular rock formation at the very top of the cliff.

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Popular for many different reasons. Here you can find rock climbers, scenic helicopter rides and hikers that love to climb into and out to the edge of this formation.

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The colors of Autumn were just beautiful from this view.

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Then it was time to head back down and refill water bottles for the next hike. This one is a killer, but well worth the view at the top. Unlike the rock climbing on the other side, this side is mostly paved with many steps built into the the path. The incline is steep and exhausting. The view from the top is breathtaking and so worth the effort.

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When we reached the top, we had the opportunity to watch some rock climbers do their thing, which is always exciting.

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From this side we could look over and see the side that we had just climbed. It does not seem so high until you see it from this angle.

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After this we hiked back down and headed to our next destination, our campsite.

The town that our son’s campus is located in is very small, has a total of two hotels and they are by far, not the nicest hotels to stay in. So, we had planned ahead and decided we would camp at a near by state park. We  really wanted to have our tent set up by dark so we decided to bring freeze dried meals and all have dinner together at camp before returning the kids back to campus. Ahead of time we had informed our son of this plan, and told him to ask his friend which meal she preferred to have in freeze dried form.

We reached the campsite and my husband starting setting up the tent while my son and I started getting dinner ready.

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This was his friends first experience with a freeze dried meal, so when he opened her meal of choice and showed her the inside she was somewhat speechless. I couldn’t help but laugh at her facial expression. Thankfully we had enough picnic food left over from lunch just in case.

Everyone’s boiling water was added to their meals. When it was time to start my husbands meal of choice, chicken breast with mashed potatoes, his needs to be done in steps, so I took out the freeze dried chicken breast and placed them on a plate.

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She was again rendered speechless, and just turned up her nose. I guess you had to be there to realize how funny it really was. They began measuring out the proper amount of water for this meal, looking like two mad scientists doing an experiment.

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While we waited for this meal to be prepared, it was time for her to take a look in her bag and see the outcome of her chili mac after it sat with boiling water for the required time. I don’t have a picture of this expression because I was laughing too hard. Although, she opened her bag, tried it and said it was pretty tasty. She took a picture to document her first freeze dried meal for future reference. It must have been edible because she ate the entire meal. It was a fun dinner with lots and lots of laughs.

Then it was time to bring the kids back to their dorms. We did stop for a quick Dairy Queen dessert before dropping them off and saying good bye. They both seemed to have a great time, and enjoyed their well needed break from campus life for a few hours. I have no doubt they were both feeling a little stiff the next morning from hiking, but they are young, they should recover fast. We told them on the second, more strenuous hike, we were helping them keep off the freshman 15 lbs. that everyone talks about. I don’t think either one believed us though.

All in all, we had a great day with them. We were tired by the time we headed back to our campsite for the night but were confident after seeing the two of them that they are getting along on their own just fine. As a parent, you never really know what will happen when they go off to college, but mine seems to be doing quite well and that makes me feel good.

First big kayak trip of the year…

We all woke up quite excited to be loading up all our gear to leave for a day on the river. Yes, it was quite chilly but nothing was going to dampen our excitement. Everyone arrived, some new to kayaking and some that have joined us in the past. Upon arriving, I was quite shocked to see the start of the river had no rocks above water.

We had checked the river flow gauge before leaving, and it read about double what we normally run it in the middle of summer. No big deal really, just not what we are normally used to seeing.

We started out slow, because we had one newbie along for this journey. Although, I must admit, he did really well for his first time, and wanted to try everything, which is normally not the case. When we arrived at a big rock structure that my son and husband love to climb to the top with their kayaks and slide down into the river, we asked who was all going to try this. All but myself and one other person decided this looked like fun. So up they all went and came splashing down with smiles across their faces!!!

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The next rapid on this river is known as “double drop” because there are two rapids back to back. This is usually the rapid we spend the most time at when the water is warmer. We love to boogie board and surf these two rapids. Today however, the boogie board was left home due to the cold water, and I did not feel like getting too wet, being I was already shivering and had a lot of the river to go yet. So, my dear husband said he would assist me in getting out to portage and he would just ride my kayak through. No problem, all I asked of him was to try and keep my seat dry!!!!!. If you knew my husband, he enjoys being upright as much as he enjoys being under his kayak, so I knew the chances of my seat being returned dry were slim, but I had to make the request anyhow. Sure enough, he decided to try and surf this rapid with my kayak and with the water being much higher than normal, it did not treat him kindly. He ended up getting turned around and then stuck in a sucker hole that would just not release him.

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Resulting in a flip, a water exit and needless to say, my kayak being returned with a VERY WET seat.

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We then switched back to our own boats, and then it was my son’s turn to surf “double drop.” He did much better and did not get stuck in the same hole as dad did, so he did not have to go swimming at all.

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Our next rapid on this river has beautiful scenery. You are looking from above a high rock cliff with this old broken down building in the distance. It’s quite fun to imagine what they did in such a huge mansion of this size.

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This is the biggest rapid on the river, and is quite mean and furious if you do not have the proper experience to kayak something of this size. We do not do this. My husband tried once, it did not end well, and he promised me I would never have to watch that again. Now some of us do just the bottom half and some portage the entire thing. It is a great resting spot about half way to the ending and a perfect place to have a snack and reapply sunscreen.

All in all we had a great day, the sun was shining and everyone left happy and very tired. We arrived at the end take out and everyone got changed in the little hut they have at this particular take out just for kayakers.

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This is the one thing that is sometimes a challenge because some take outs are on the edge of highways, and you sometimes have to drive home wet, or just be creative. We have a great plan when all else fails, but here we never have to go that route.

After changing we all eat, because you can not imagine how hungry a day on the river makes you. Our dining table is the tailgate of our truck. And you gotta love the Christmas plates I grabbed, I figured it was appropriate, because I knew the water was going to be cold:)

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It was a fun day, with a fun group of people.

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QUESTION: Would you ever try this if you had the chance?